How to Get a Job as a Dental Hygienist
Working as a dental hygienist isn’t just about scraping plaque and administering oral X-rays. Quinones says a strong work ethic, positive attitude, problem-solving skills, and strong communication skills will benefit someone hoping to enter the position. “Having a wide array of abilities and talents extends the reach of a dental hygiene degree, allowing access to fields outside of private dental practice,” she adds. “By the same token, most of these skills are developed better through experience, and they easily transfer into other arenas.”
Private practice jobs are a little harder to secure given the state of the economy, says Quinones. “However, this also … opens doors for anyone interested in utilizing their dental hygiene skills outside of dental offices,” she says. “Necessity breeds creativity, and this is a chance for dental hygienists to think outside the box, look at their skills, and apply them to a new career path.”
What is the Job Like?
Being a people person helps. In addition to interacting with colleagues (who are oftentimes dentists, dental assistants, and receptionists), a dental hygienist also spends ample time educating patients on proper dental care. Hygienists should also hone their compassionate side, since the dental chair can be a source of fear (and pain) for some patients.
Quinones says many in her field enjoy the flexibility that can come with working part-time (more than half of hygienists today do so, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics). However, keep in mind that most workdays will be spent standing and bending over for a better view of the incisors, molars, and gums of patients. Staying in good physical shape is practically mandatory to prevent strain and injury.